Leisure Services Bureau Chief Joe Shearouse called a special meeting of the Savannah Film Commission Wednesday afternoon, ostensibly to explain Monday’s surprising “suspension pending dismissal” of Jay Self, Film Service Director.
But commissioners left the meeting more baffled than they were before.
“It’s a personnel matter, and I’m not going to comment on that other than saying he is on paid leave,” Shearouse told the advisory board, “and we hope to have something resolved within the next few days.”
Everything the Chief said afterwards was virtually the same vague statement, re-worded a little each time.
He batted away one question after another, including many about Broughton Street business owners, several of whom have been loudly complaining that they’re not happy with the compensation package offered by Paramount Pictures, which is to begin shooting a Spongebob Squarepants movie here soon.
“I hate to avoid questions, but ….” Shearouse said. “The action I’ve taken, I feel very comfortable with. I can defend my action in front of the proper authority – my boss, the City Manager. At the time and place, I’ll do that.”
City Manager Stephanie Cutter has been out of town, he said, and was expected back Wednesday night.
Shearouse declined to say whether Paramount, and the ongoing negotiations with downtown businesses, played a role in his disciplinary action against Self.
“They (Spongebob producers) are aware of what’s going on here,” Shearouse said, “and are comfortable with it.”
He also denied a persistent rumor that the Savannah Film Office was going to be absorbed by the State of Georgia Film Office.
“Not to contradict Mr. Shearouse, but I have a feeling this has something to do with this Spongebob movie,” commissioner Murray Silver said after the meeting was adjourned.
“And it probably has something to do with the Chamber of Commerce, and this difficulty about reimbursement for the merchants.”
Self, meanwhile, has requested a meeting with City Manager Cutter, to appeal Shearouse’s action.